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Book 6, Chapter 3 – The Labs

 Greenland's laboratory was several years old by this point. It'd been put together even before Cloudhawk had come to take over.

At the time, Wolfblade was using the Dark Atom's resources to keep Greenland Outpost under control. Part of that involved creating a lab for research and experiments. Although not particularly large it was well equipped and laid a fine foundation for Cloudhawk and his people to build upon.

After the inception of Greenland as a territory, the labs were given special consideration.

Within two years this system of rooms and experiment chambers had gone from a typical wasteland lab to a place where world-changing discoveries were made. Greenland was a peerless center for scientific research, the largest Seeker conclave in the wastes.

Scientists from the Dark Atom, Sandspire, Nox and all other corners of the wastelands dreamed of working here. After all, Nucleus was no longer as safe as it once was and the same could be said for Nox. Sandspire was even worse off.

Little by little, Greenland was becoming the political, military and scientific center of the wastelands. It was at the heart of the Green Alliance and boasted powerful defenses. Its unique situation and policies attracted the best of the best. That was why in only two short years Greenland was teaming with peerless men and women from far and wide.

Investments in the laboratory proved worthwhile.

Results from the lab had been especially striking in the last year or so. From eboncrys weapons to utility armor; from genetically modified soldiers to genetically modified food - they all were concocted right here.

It was no exaggeration to say that Greenland's labs continued to collect inventions and achievements that improved life for everyone. Its existence was a benefit to all the millions of wastelanders who'd lived in squalor. Countless souls were saved from starvation, dehydration and death.

Greenland's labs were separated by scientific pursuit; biology, robotics, military hardware, energy research, materials science and more. The most brilliant scientific minds were chosen as lab directors.

Bug worked in the robotics lab. The name hearkened back to when she lived as a small, humble scav in the ruins around Sandspire. In those days her and her brother risked their lives digging out old tech and repairing it for scraps. But their luck changed and they found themselves in Greenland where Bug's talent with machines was recognized. Rather than waste time learning things she already knew in the Institute, she was immediately given a position in the laboratories. Fate had really changed the track of her life.

There were a lot of people with stories like hers in Greenland these days.

Gratefulness and joy filled them, because if Greenland hadn't come around weak folk like them would still just be scraping by - or long dead. If Cloudhawk hadn't changed the wastelands for the better, where else would there be such an oasis?

Bug absolutely loved robotics research. It was reflected in her diligent and ceaseless work.

She knew she would never wear a green cloak like the soldiers of the Green Alliance. It wasn't her place to take up arms and defend their home from outsiders. All she could do was continue to grow the talents that she had and do all she could for her home.

Her hard work paid off. There were a number of important inventions and discoveries attributed to her. Not long ago she was recognized for her genius and promoted to junior scientist.

Greenland boasted more than four thousand accomplished scientists of many disciplines. For organizational purposes they were separated into interns, junior scientists, senior scientists and lead scientists. Interns were ninety percent of the total and most came from various corners of the wastes. Junior scientists were those interns which rose above the crowd. There were only about three hundred or so at present.

Senior scientists were even rarer. They were erudite figures numbering only about twenty, each doggedly chasing success toward some goal or another.

Lead scientists numbered only five. Achieving this station was reserved for people of exceptional genius, drive and ability. None were inferior to the likes of Academician Roste or Three-Eyed Spider.

For Greenland to have five such scientific minds spoke volumes to its power.

Bug was the lab's youngest junior scientist, but despite that she was already well on her way to another promotion. She was gentle, approachable and whip smart, all of which made her a rising star in the robotics department. Even the lauded Hellflower held Bug in high regard. From time to time she even came to give Bug personal instruction, which was almost too flattering for the young girl to bear.

For indeed, who was Hellflower? She was a legend among scientists and engineers! In the eyes of Ordinary Seekers she was the ultimate authority!

Hellflower's remarkable contributions to the wastelands were the subject of universal appreciation. To Bug she was an idol, a perfect role model to emulate. No one knew this teenage girl's enormous ambitions for she held them close to the vest, but in her heart of hearts she dreamed of one day being a world-renowned scientist. Just like Hellflower.

Lately the labs were busy as a beehive.

As a junior scientist Bug had the freedom to work on some of her own interests. She had ten interns working under her in addition to a number of assistants, and students from Greenland Institute. These young faces were the future of Greenland's science departments so they were often wandering through the labs to learn.

"Research specimens are precious, make sure you record every detail."

Bug was busy deconstructing a robot in the middle of the robots lab. She meticulously picked it apart piece by piece; from its outer carapace, to its limbs, to its inner circuitry. No matter how many times this process had been repeated it was always a shock. The construction of these machines was a work of art.

One of their limbs contained thousands of components.

As Bug continued to work with a number of specimens, she found that those components all fit together with incredible precision. It was less like they were parts made in some lab and more like they were just a natural, perfect product of these creatures. Their neural networks were complex and fully integrated, giving the creatures total control over their bodies. Judging by their research these creatures even had advanced tactile senses and could differentiate smells. Altogether they were capable of a magnificently lifelike existence.

This level of manufacturing was hundreds of years ahead of the wastelands. If Bug could compare it to anything, it was like what she might find from ancient tech.

Her current aim was to unravel the secrets of these machines' nervous systems. What she saw displayed a mastery that the wastelands simply did not possess. If she could reverse engineer this technology it would be a priceless discovery. There were so many in the wastelands who were missing limbs, these robots could hold the key to improving their quality of life by creating arms and legs indistinguishable from the real thing.

Bug poured over the specimen with furrowed brow, working on these secrets when one of her assistants came rushing over. "Boss Hellflower is coming!"

She gasped. Why was Hellflower coming to their lab? Before the young girl could get up to meet her an alluring figure swept into the room. A woman of such presence and beauty should have been impossible in the wastelands, but somehow the deserts had produced this flower.

Every time she saw her Bug was afflicted with terrible self-consciousness. To her, Hellflower was perfect. Her mind, her body were inimitable. In fact, the respect she held for this scientist surpassed even their city's Governor, Dawn. Although the Governor was also an exceptional woman, she had come from the Elysian lands. Hellflower was a closer ideal, since they'd come from the same place.

Bug had made a few friends with other female scientists in the lab. They often liked to chat and gossip. In quiet voices they proclaimed that only a perfect flower of the wilds deserved to be with the wasteland's perfect man. As far as they were concerned, Hellflower and Cloudhawk were made for one another.

Hellflower called out to her. "What are you up to here?"

"Boss Hellflower," Bug stuttered, "is there something I can help you with?"

The older woman launched right into an explanation. "Cloudhawk and I recently made a discovery on Stony Plains that affects our manufacturing plans. It's time for us to step up."

She went on to explain the basics of what they knew.

"What? The robots have started attacking people?"

Bug was initially skeptical of the news. These robots weren't aggressive like wasteland creatures. Since they didn't need to eat why would they be attacking the settlers? Bug knew of Greenland's plans to establish a manufacturing base on Stony Plains, the plans had been in the process of implementation for months now. It would be a tremendous loss of time and resources if they had to stop now because the robots have started attacking settlers.

"We know very little of Stony Plains. If we explore it blindly we will invariably meet danger." Hellflower adjusted her goggles as she spoke, as was her custom. "Our two worlds differ greatly in scientific capability and to the present we still don't understand the mysteries of these creatures. However, that does not mean we can't discover their origin."

Bug did not know how they intended to do that. Hellflower answered with a clap of her hands.

A group of soldiers entered, bringing with them several restrained robots.

They looked like raptors, almost two meters tall with powerful hind legs. Their forelimbs were much smaller but bore wicked claws. Unlike all the other specimens these were still operational. However there were signs of damage from a recent struggle. That was how Dawn and her soldiers had managed to capture them.

Hellflower continued. "We have seen a number of examples where these creatures have been repaired. That tells us that they go somewhere to have work done. These specimens have been damaged, so we can expect them to try and escape to that place when freed."

Bug was beginning to understand.

"What I need you to do is design a tracking mechanism. Install them in these robots, and we use this method to follow them to the source." Hellflower fixed the young girl with her stare. "What do you say? Can you handle it?"

There was no question in her mind, Hellflower was giving her a chance to prove herself! The woman could produce a working transponder with hardly any effort. Bug was filled with inspiration and appreciation when she knew what was happening. "I will definitely complete this task!"

Hellflower nodded her head in satisfaction. "We scientists do things as scientists do. Show Cloudhawk what we're capable of. Don't let that all brawn and no brain Governor Dawn look down on us."

"Yes, ma'am!" Bug adopted a serious facade.

"I hear you're working on finding some way to combine the robots' neural network with the human nervous system," Hellflower said sudden, as though an afterthought. "An inspired project. We have a wealth of specimens now, I'll make sure you get as many as you need. Work hard, if you earn senior scientist in under two years I'll consider taking you on as my protege."

Bug felt like her heart would burst out of her chest, it was beating so quickly!

This legendary woman who she admired so much would be her teacher?! It was an offer she couldn't resist. It didn't matter if she didn't eat or sleep for the next two years, she had to stand out!

Hellflower was a busy woman. She left after giving Bug her new task. Bug turned to her interns when they were alone once again.

"Alright, time to get to work!"

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